When it comes to in-house training, the computer age has arrived. According to a recent survey by Training magazine, 95 percent of U.S. companies trained their employees in the use of computer applications in 1999. Other widely taught training topics were communication skills (88 percent); management skills (85 percent); and customer service (83 percent).

However, only 14 percent of all formal training was delivered via computer, suggesting that face-to-face training isn't going away anytime soon. Another interesting fact: Even when training is delivered online, interaction with other people--instructors and/or other students--takes place 36 percent of the time.

The staying power of face-to-face training is corroborated in another new survey, the ASTD (American Society for Training & Development) 2000 State of the Industry Report. This report, which surveyed 501 U.S. organizations about their training activities in 1998, found that companies delivered 78.4 percent of training in the classroom (a slight increase from 1997), and 8.5 percent of training with learning technologies (a slight decrease from 1997). This comes after a 50 percent increase of computer-delivered training between 1996 and 1997, suggesting that "organizations are finding the challenges to implementing technology-based training difficult to overcome," says Mark Van Buren, ASTD's director of research.

Both surveys document the growth of in-house training. Training magazine's 2,100 respondents, all from companies with 100 or more employees, budgeted $62.5 billion for formal training in 1999. More than half of those dollars were spent on training professionals ($19.9 billion) and managers ($16.5 billion).

Other findings from this study: * About $4.4 billion was spent on seminars and conferences, compared with $3.95 billion in 1998 and less than $3 billion in 1994.

* Ninety percent of corporate training departments still use live classroom instruction.

* Eighty-one percent of the companies surveyed teach leadership; 77 percent teach teambuilding; and 72 percent teach product knowledge. Nine percent plan to send some employees to an outdoor experiential training program.

* Roughly half of all online training courses are about imparting information, not about teaching skills.

Face Your Fears How do you motivate a group of salespeople to move beyond their most basic fears? By getting them to confront those fears, says Gary Coxe, a self-described "success coach" based in Plant City, Fla.

Earlier this year, Coxe brought a live tarantula onstage with him during a daylong motivational workshop he presented to a group of 200 salespeople from the Kirby Co., a Cleveland-based vacuum cleaner manufacturer. One woman was so phobic about spiders, says Kirby's national sales director Artis Webb, that she fled from the room. "By the end of the day," says Webb, "she was onstage with Coxe, the tarantula in her hand."

In addition to speeches and workshops, Coxe offers an unusual incentive: He personally pilots top performers to and from one of seven Sandals resorts in the Caribbean in his Lear jet ($1,200 per person).

"Companies bring me in to show people how to overcome bad habits that interfere with them reaching their potential," says Coxe, a longtime pilot.